Tooth Abscess

(Dental Abscess; Abscessed Tooth)

Definition

A tooth abscess is a sac of infected material called pus in a tooth or the gums.
Abscess Between Tooth and Gum
Abscess tooth
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Causes

A tooth abscess is caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria invade and infect a tooth. This results in pus build-up. When the pus is unable to drain, an abscess results.Conditions that allow bacteria to invade a tooth include:
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Break or crack in a tooth that lets bacteria invade the pulp
  • Failed root canal treatment

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a tooth abscess include:
  • Build up of tartar or calculus beneath the gum line
  • Poor dental hygiene leading to cavities and periodontal diseases

Symptoms

A tooth abscess may cause:
  • Throbbing/lingering pain in a tooth or gum area
  • Pain when biting
  • Pain from hot or cold
  • Sudden tooth pain
  • Redness, tenderness, or swelling of the gums
  • Fever
  • Bad breath or foul taste in mouth
  • Open, draining sore on the gums
If left untreated, complications of tooth abscess include:
  • Loss of tooth and surrounding tissues or bone
  • Spread of infection to surrounding tissue or bone

Diagnosis

Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A detailed exam of your teeth and gums will be done. Images may need to be taken of the tooth and surrounding bone. This can be done with x-rays. A sample of the abscess fluid may be taken and tested.

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